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How Social Impact Investing Powers Clayoquot Biosphere Trust in Values-based Community Support

How Social Impact Investing Powers Clayoquot Biosphere Trust in Values-based Community Support

From preserving sensitive ecosystems to building capacity in Clayoquot Sound communities, CBT puts impact at the forefront of all of its initiatives

When an image of a logging truck carrying a massive old-growth tree down a Vancouver Island highway went viral earlier this summer, it brought back memories for many British Columbians of the protests that took place in Clayoquot Sound back in the 1990s.

At the time, thousands of activists and local community members attempted to block logging trucks from accessing the old growth forests located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, known for its rugged coastlines and temperate rainforest conditions. Their actions, often referred to as the War in the Woods, resulted in the largest act of civil disobedience in Canada.

They also contributed to raising the global awareness of a region that has been home to Nuu-chah-nulth for more than 2,000 years — First Nations that have stewarded the land and who were opposed to the large-scale harvesting.

Old-growth logging and clear cutting practices have consumed hundreds of thousands of hectares of BC’s forests, and local activists continue to work toward protecting these invaluable and irreplaceable eco-systems.

And since 2000, the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust has been modelling solutions for complex sustainability challenges.

Creating a biosphere reserve

image of a lake with pine trees and Genus' orange arrow

Twenty-one years ago, the CBT was created when Clayoquot Sound was designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve. This was followed by a $12 million endowment fund from the Government of Canada in support of conservation and sustainable development efforts.

Today, the CBT manages that fund to help the community achieve its vision of a sustainable balance between conserving natural ecosystems, achieving sound economic development and maintaining cultural diversity as well as biodiversity.

“We’re both a community foundation and a biosphere region,” says Executive Director Rebecca Hurwitz. Its role as an endowment fund is where its involvement with Genus began.

Impact investing at its core

CBT came to Genus for assistance with managing its large endowment fund in a way that would allow it to fully support its mandate. “Our investments must align with our values,” Hurwitz says.

When we first started with Genus, they were able to offer the best in class investing in terms of sustainability and screening out investments that didn’t align with our mandate. Over time, their ability to hone in on different areas of investment has increased

Rebecca Hurwitz, Executive Director, Clayoquot Biosphere Trust Tweet

Genus’ portfolio of sustainable investment solutions for institutional impact was a perfect fit for CBT because of its alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. “As part of our global networks, we have to ensure that our investments aren’t contributing to negative impacts in other biosphere regions,” Hurwitz says. “So we were really excited that Genus has taken up the UN SDGs, because that’s a framework we’re also using. We’re talking the same language. I also love that they’ve implemented their net impact score for Genus portfolios that can be a measurement too for us moving forward.”

As a foundation, CBT’s focus is on maintaining and growing its endowment fund, so that it can continue to invest in its community. “We’re a conservative investor, and we have appreciated Genus’ capacity to support that through its Fossil Free Fund investment strategy,” Hurwitz says. “That security gives us a consistent ability to deliver locally on our programming and our grants.”

From smart sustainable investing to innovative programming

From food security initiatives to youth leadership programming, to educational tourism, CBT has “a lot going on as a community foundation,” Hurwitz says. “We provide many streams of grants — from small grants to support belonging and connection to ecosystem research and restoration grants. We think of ourselves as a 360-grantor; we’re all-encompassing.”

One of its current areas of focus is the development of a central community space for education, research and cultural programs located in Tofino, central to the population of Clayoquot Sound and in the heart of Tla-o-qui-aht territory..

“We’re in the early stages of this capital project,” Hurwitz says.”We know there’s a strong need for the regional amenity — both for us and for local organizations. This would bring a number of organizations and research partners together.”

For CBT, it all comes down to aligning its mandate and vision with its ability to continuously raise funds for impactful initiatives. “Impact investing is deeply rooted in who we are,” Hurwitz says. “And Genus has been a great partner in that.”

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